Pesticides in Cannabis

Chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides can be detrimental to the growth of healthy plants. Pesticides aid in healthy growth of cannabis, but may pose serious health risks to  consumers. One lab found that more than 65 percent of their samples contained residue from a pesticide called myclobutanil, which is converted into deadly hydrogen cyanide when burned. Another pesticide called carbofuran can cause convulsions, vomiting, incontinence, and even death.  It’s important that growers know what kind of pesticides they’re using so consumers are not harmed from the products they inhale or consume.

The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) states that the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) shall develop regulatory standards and action level detection limits on the use of pesticides on cannabis.  These standards are regulated by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). The DPR sets regulations and enforces laws that oversee the purchase and usage of pesticides in California, but works closely with the BCC for guidelines on cannabis. Currently there are pesticide products that cannot be legally used in marijuana cultivation (Category I), as well as pesticide products that can be legally used if the pesticides are below a certain limit (Category II). For a more detailed list, including the detection limits, please visit: Pesticide Testing Requirements for Cannabis Products in State of California. It is up to cannabis testing laboratories to determine if these pesticides are present in cannabis products and provide certificates of analysis upon “passing” state regulatory pesticide requirements.

Testing laboratories such as Encore must continue their work with regulatory bodies in order to create industry guidelines for pesticide use in cannabis for the overall safety in the research and consumption of cannabis.

Below are Examples of Pesticide Chemicals Considered to be Unsafe Over a Certain Detection Limit or Illegal for Cannabis Cultivation

PesticideAllowed for Use?Type / DescriptionCause and Effects
MyclobutanilYes if it meets action level thresholdFungicide:  Considered “slightly hazardous” by the World Health Organization and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and its own label warns of nervous system problems and toxic fumes.Found in:  Eagle 20*Can become hydrogen cyanide or hydrogen chloride when heated
ImidaclopridYes if it meets action level thresholdInsecticide:  A systemic insecticide acting as an insect neurotoxin belonging to a class of neonicotinoids acting on the central nervous system of insects.Found in:  Merit and Mallet pesticide brandsConsidered “moderately hazardous” by the WHO, and the National Pesticide Information Center says it’s moderately toxic if ingested or inhaled.  Also known as a proponent of the decline of honey bee colonies, and as a result several countries have restricted use of imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids.
Abamectin and the avermectin chemical familyYes if it meets action level thresholdInsecticide:  Controls leafminers and mites and suppresses whiteflies, thrips and aphids on various ornamental species.Found in:  Avid and Lucid pesticide brandsPAN lists avermectin as a “Bad Actor,” and Avid labels say it’s “harmful if inhaled”.
AldicarbNoPesticide: Multi-use pesticide that is used to control populations of agriculturally-harmful insects and nematodes. Belongs to the carbamate family of pesticidesFound in: first produced synthetically by Union Carbide under the trade name Temik.Mechanism of action: works by inhibiting the production of cholinesterase in respective organisms.Aldicarb is high toxicIt is highly regulated and marked as a “Restricted Use Pesticide” in the United States.According to the Environmental Protection Agency, aldicarb is “one of the most acutely toxic Pesticides registered” (#Cox 1992).Only certified applicators are allowed use of the pesticide, and, regardless, all products containing aldicarb must be labeled “Poison.” 
ChlorfenapyrNoPesticide: Specifically, a pro-insecticide (meaning it is metabolized into an active insecticide subsequent to entering the host).Found In: PhantomThis pesticide is derived from a class of microbially produced compounds known as halogenated pyrroles. Chlorfenapyr works by disrupting the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).
DDVP (Dichlorvos)NoInsecticide: Dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate whose common abbreviation is DDVP.1 Dichlorvos is an organophosphate insecticide and acts on the acetylcholinesterase, inherent in the nervous systems of insects. Other data exists for other modes of action, as it relates to higher animals, whereby, it damages the DNA of the organism.2, 3Found In: DDVP-Technical, DDVP Technical 97%, Vapona 20-e insecticideThis compound is commonly used to manage household pests, in the public health arena, as well as, also being utilized in the protection of stored product from insects.The compound was first commercially available in 1961.Controversy surrounds this compound as it has shown evidence of pervasiveness into urban waterways, as well as, because the toxicity of the compound reaches beyond insects.

*Eagle 20 is approved for use on certain crops and plants, including turf grass, ornamental flowers and fruit trees.


  • “Dichlorvos”Haz-Map. U.S. National Library of Medicine. August 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  • Pancetti, F.; Olmos, C.; Dagnino-Subiabre, A.; Rozas, C.; Morales, B. (2007). “Noncholinesterase Effects Induced by Organophosphate Pesticides and their Relationship to Cognitive Processes: Implication for the Action of Acylpeptide Hydrolase”. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health, Part B10: 623.
  • Booth, E. D.; Jones, E.; Elliott, B. M. (2007). “Review of the in vitro and in vivo genotoxicity of dichlorvos”. Regul. Toxicol. Pharmacol. 49: 316.